THIRTY-SIX: FIRE AND BLOOD
ONCE ALEXANDER HAD FINISHED feeding, he set fire to the body, the room, and ultimately, the house to cover his tracks.
He stood outside and watched it burn. The house was north of Eudora, out deep in the country. No one would see the fire and call the authorities. He didn’t like this skulking about, but it was the vampire’s lot in life. It had been done for thousands of years. While there were humans that were aware of their existence, if the world at large was given this knowledge there would be nowhere to hide as they were hunted down.
So working in the shadows was what they did. It’s how they survived.
But ever since Brone had come into power, he’d made the darkness—the shadows—that much murkier.
Brone had a plan, a plan that many vampires, Alexander included, believed was best for the future of the vampire race. More important, the Elder believed. Brone had been sent to Kansas to begin work. Alexander and his brother had gone with him. In order to keep the plan moving forward, they had to attract as little attention as possible.
Not an easy task in this hovel of a town the humans called Eudora.
Alexander had always preferred life in the more metropolitan areas of the world. In a big city like New York, London, or Paris, it was nothing to pull a human into a dark alley, feed, and then leave the body there in the filth and grime.
But a small town? Sure, there weren’t as many people to watch out for, but there was something about small populations that made people pay more attention to what was going on around them. Plus, there weren’t many out of the way places in which to drop a body. Not unless you wanted to cart it out into the middle of nowhere, of which there were plenty of in this part of the country.
So, rather than pull his food off the streets and take it out to the sticks, he instead found an isolated home and a lone occupant. Yet, he couldn’t just feed with reckless abandon. He’d found the human, but he’d needed to talk to Brone first. He needed permission. Which rankled him some, but he understood the need for caution.
Brone had allowed the feeding, asking only that Alexander clean up after himself. Thus the fire, nature’s cleanser.
A black van pulled into the drive of the old house. It moved slowly, but with purpose. Alexander made no move to conceal himself, he knew who was behind the wheel.
Thomas, his brother, had dropped him off here at the old house before leaving on a task of his own. A task given to him by Brone. Alexander had offered to share his food, but he’d known that Thomas would decline, which he had certainly done.
His brother, while needing the life-sustaining blood that only the human race could provide, preferred not to take it from its source. It was something akin to the aversion some humans have for eating chicken from the bone. Thomas found the humans unclean and did not care to touch them if it could be avoided. But then, Thomas had always been obsessed with staying clean, even back before they had been turned.
Thomas stepped from the van, a scowl on his face. Alexander tried to recall a time when his brother wasn’t scowling, and smiled when he found that he could not.
“A little extreme, don’t you think,” Thomas said and pulled a small metal flask from a pouch on the tactical gear he wore.
Thomas mirrored Alexander in dress. All black like a soldier from a special forces unit. Except neither of them carried weapons.
“Brone said to tidy up,” Alexander said.
Thomas only grunted as he drank from the flask. Alexander knew that it contained human blood, plus a chemical additive that kept it fresh, but more importantly, kept it from congealing.
“Did you complete your task?” Alexander asked.
“Of course,” Thomas said. “She’s in the van now.”
“She the right age this time?” Alexander asked.
“She is, and I will not be blamed for the last one. I took who Brone chose. If she was too old, that is his fault, not mine.”
“That is between you and Brone, brother,” Alexander said.
Thomas only grunted.
The two stood in silence for almost a full minute as the house burned.
“What are we going to do about Norman Oklahoma?” Thomas said.
“Nothing,” Alexander said. “You know Brone’s wishes.”
“Bertram Brone is nothing more than a bottom feeder who has had one good idea in a lifetime of bad decisions,” Thomas said. Then he spit. “I follow him only because the Elder has commanded it.”
“Brone’s plan should make you happy,” Alexander said. “If he succeeds, you will never have to feed off of another human again.”
“I said it was a good idea. That doesn’t make Brone fit to lead.”
“Regardless, he does lead,” Alexander said. “And he said that Oklahoma is not to be touched.”
“Oklahoma has no idea what we are doing in his town. He’s too busy dealing with this Brotherhood business. Now is the right time to strike, while his head is elsewhere.”
Alexander sighed. “I want Oklahoma dead as much as you, Thomas. But Brone—”
“Do you not feel ashamed?” Thomas interrupted. “Do you not feel the fire in your belly whenever you think of the way the human humiliated us? It’s happened twice now! We never would have let a filthy human get away with that.”
“Of course I feel ashamed,” Alexander raised his voice. “I have thought of nothing but bathing in his blood for two days. He will die by our hands, trust me on that one, brother. But only when Brone says.”
“Bah!” Thomas turned back to the van. “You shame yourself with this unconditional loyalty that you have for someone of such low caliber.”
“My loyalty is with the Elder, not Brone.”
Again there was silence between them.
“We don’t know where Oklahoma is,” Alexander said. “He’s off hunting the Brotherhood. How can we take advantage of his distraction if we don’t know where he is?”
“He will have to come back home eventually,” Thomas said. “Or his office. You can wait for him at the one, I at the other. When he arrives, he dies.”
“When is the appropriate word,” Alexander said.
“We will drop the girl off with Brone,” Thomas said. “After that, we will no longer be needed until tomorrow. If Oklahoma does not arrive by then, we will think of something else, but I will not allow that man to walk much longer on this earth if I can help it.”
“Fine,” Alexander said. “But we must do it in such a way that it does not get back to Brone. It would not do to have the Elder learn that we disobeyed.”
The house continued to burn. The two brothers watched the blaze in silence for nearly five minutes before Alexander asked:
“Did you tell Brone about Jenner? About what he is?”
“No,” Thomas said before taking another drink from his flask. “It has no impact on what Brone is trying to do. Besides, I felt it prudent not to embarras myself in front of him once again, not after he learned what Oklahoma had done to the two of us.”
Alexander didn’t respond.
“Why?” Thomas said. “Did you?”
“Of course not,” said Alexander. “You are right. He does not need to know. If, and when he does, I will tell him. Until then, it wouldn’t hurt to keep that little piece of information to ourselves. You never know when something like that could come in handy.”
“Quite,” Thomas replied.
The two went back to watching the house burn. The flames roared high and bright as the internal structure began to collapse in on itself, creating the kind of chaotic symphony one would expect to hear in Hell. So cacophonous was the sound that neither vampire, despite their enhanced senses, heard the car pull into the drive behind them.
Before the two had even an inkling of an idea that they were no longer alone, a woman ran past them. She headed straight for the burning house, stopping only when the heat grew too intense for her.
She turned back to Alexander and his brother. He could see tears in her eyes.
She stumbled up to them.
“What happened?” She said, the panic more than apparent in her voice. “Was he in there? Was my father in there?”
When neither of them answered, she did the unthinkable. She reached out and took Thomas by the shoulders and shook him.
“Answer me,” she screamed.
Thomas did not hesitate. He simply took her head in both hands, twisted, and broke her neck. He let go and she dropped to the ground.
Alexander, watching her drop, wondered for a moment where she had come from, then he turned in time to see the terrified face of a man behind the wheel of an old minivan. The woman must have come with him.
Alexander watched as the man put the van into reverse and sped backwards from the driveway, kicking up rocks and dust. Once in the road, the van shot forward and out of sight beyond the trees that ringed the property.
“Yes,” Thomas said, a hint of a smile ghosting across his face. “You tidy up quite nicely.”
Alexander cursed and ran after the van.
A vampire had many attributes that make it superior to humans in every way. A vampire can’t be killed, except by silver. A vampire is ten times as strong, and they can run almost fifty miles an hour.
In other words, Alexander caught the van less than a half mile down the road. Running alongside the vehicle he could see the panicked driver inside. Alexander smiled at the man, showing his fangs.
The man screamed and the van shot forward. But before he could get away, Alexander rammed his shoulder into the side of the van. It rocked on its chassis, but it was enough to cause the driver to lose control.
The van spun and then flipped as the driver, attempting to get the boxy vehicle under control, over corrected. It landed on the driver’s side and slid off into the ditch.
Alexander jumped, landing on the sliding door of the passenger side. He looked in through the passenger side window at the man, still belted in, still conscious, but scrambling to try and free himself. He was too worked up, however. He didn’t seem to have a lot of control over his limbs as they flailed about, trying to work the seat belt release.
He looked up to see Alexander at the window and tried moving faster, though it did him little good.
Alexander pulled the door from the car and flung it aside. He reached in as the man tried to back away, but he had nowhere to go. Alexander grabbed the belt and yanked it from the van, tossing it out with the door. Then he grabbed up the human, pulled out by one arm, and sent him sailing through the air to meet the door and the seat belt.
The man hit the ground with a back breaking thud, and before he could move, Alexander was on top of him. Having just fed, he made the man’s end quick, breaking his neck like Thomas had done to his companion.
Then, throwing the man over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, he walked back to join his brother at the burning house. Without a word he walked over, and into, the blaze with the body, and dumped him off near the center of the house.
By the time he returned, his clothes were nearly burned free from him.
“The girl?” Alexander asked.
Thomas pointed to the burning house and then said, “The minivan? Are you just going to leave it out there on the road?”
“We’re going to have to drag it over to the river and dump it in.”
“Then we drop of the girl and go kill Norman Oklahoma,” Thomas said.
“If things go our way,” Alexander said. “Oklahoma won’t live to see nightfall tomorrow.”
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